So subjective and personal to the individual is the perception of ‘Taste’ it’s a futile topic for open debate or even discussion. It’s a question people will answer in a way unique to themselves.
In the field of Visual Art alone, the choice is mind-bending. Try making a mental catalog of genre and medium in each of the categories of Drawings, Paintings, Prints and Sculpture. Soon enough, you’ll be feeling on the dizzy edge of the abyss. Some benefit can be derived from the grouping together of those people who prefer one Period or Movement above all others. As a result, dealers wouldn’t approach a well-known collector of 19th century landscapes with the offering of a Rothko or Pollock. Neither would a gallery owner invite a regular buyer of watercolour botanicals to the opening night of an ‘performance’ exhibition.
Asking why people do the things they do is as dependent on circumstances as the old query about ‘How long is a piece of string?’ Possible answers number as many as the variables implied in the question. Answers may include: pure benevolence, public spirit, business promotion, self-promotion, compensation for a deprived childhood, status-seeking, simple vanity or greed, the desire to help people with talents the collector admires. All or none of the above may be given in answer. The true answer is sometimes a mystery to even the collector.
The pockets of a collector may be deep enough to engage a full-time ‘spotter’ or retain a dealer or auction house agent as and when needed. A collector’s purse may run to meeting all living costs of a favoured artist in return for first pick of the output. None of these methods is new. The treasures of antiquity, held in common by all humanity, were created by artists surviving only by one form or another of patronage.
During the Dutch ‘Golden Age’ of painting, Prince Frederik Hendrik ruled The Hague. A major art collector, the prince commissioned many Dutch artists. Among the beneficiaries of the Prince’s generosity was Rembrandt. In Rome, the treasures of sculpture, painting, architecture and poetry Michaelangelo created wouldn’t exist had they not been commissioned by Julius and his papal court. Most of the masterpieces and innovative devices of Leonardo Da Vinci were created for his patrons in the city-states of Rome, Florence and Milan, and for Francis 1, king of France.
- In every era to the present, master artists and the merely fashionable alike, enjoy support from collectors. Pharohs and Popes, advertising moguls and financial ‘angels’ to agents of local or global social propaganda comprise the collector’s club of renown.
- On the other end of the scale, anyone who enjoys looking at artwork in the privacy of home can build a collection of art prints. These range from the one-off mono-print or certified Limited Edition to the mass-produced poster print.